Sunday, October 05, 2008

On the Spirituality of Being a Cubs Fan

I arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning from a church youth group amusement park outing in Ohio. I knew the Cubs were playing on Saturday, with their backs against the wall, but honestly didn't know whether it was a day game or a night game. If they lost, I figured, I would be just as happy not to have witnessed it. If they won, I would be more than glad to catch the highlights on ESPN. As we returned to the church parking lot at 1 AM, the driver of the other vehicle in our caravan informed me that the game was in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Cubs were down by two runs. When I got home, I immediately turned on the TV and muted the sound so as to not waken my wife, who was asleep on a living room recliner. The picture came on just in time for me to see Alfonso Soriano swing at strike three, ending the game, and ending the Cubs' season. How's that for timing?

I have many times, with my tongue in my cheek only slightly, proclaimed baseball to be "God's game", because it operates in kairos rather than kronos, and the Cubs to be "God's team", because rooting for them puts one squarely in touch with eschatological hope, with the "now but not yet" paradox of the inbreaking Kingdom of God, with the liminal junction between yearning and fulfillment--all necessary components of Christian perfection.

This latest meltdown, however, imposes a more distinctly cruciform shape on the experience. It was brought into focus for me in this morning's epistle reading from Philippians 3, in which St Paul meditates on the fellowship of suffering shared by those who are "in Christ"--fellowship (koinonia, actually) with Christ's own suffering, and also with the suffering of the world. 

The experience of turning on the TV just in time for the last pitch was, for me, a tangible sign of that fellowship. I mean here to be neither flip nor ridiculously serious. To say that the Cubs and their fans "suffer" as a result of the last three games would be to trivialize acutal suffering--cancer, combat deaths, natural diasters, etc. etc. What I have in mind is more like what a disciplined Christian experiences in the observance of Lent, or of Fridays outside of festival time. When I pass up the pitcher of diet cola when it's set on my table at a Friday Rotary meeting, I may find it annoying to do so, but it doesn't constitute suffering, if for no other reason than that the experience is self-imposed. It is, rather, an opportunity for me to voluntarily embrace an annoyance that serves as a model of actual suffeirng, a tool that, in its own small way, helps configure my soul to the shape of the cross. It creates a space in which grace can move. My soul's eternal health is the sum of tens of thousands of such small decisions to cooperate with grace.

So on this day after disaster, when I got home from morning duties and changed out of my clericals, I put on my Cubs t-shirt and embraced the agony of the moment, not despising the shame of it. My call as a disciple, after all, it to take up the cross, not simply become its passive victim.  I am quite certain in faith that it will become the "way of life and peace." 

How long until spring training?


Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Dan:

I wish you, in faith, a way of life and of peace, and I send you Cubs Condolences,

Deacon Francie

Mousie and Christy's Mommy said...

Fr. Dan ~

Bob shares your sorrow. He feel a little responsible because he actually made reservations at a hotel in downtown Chicago "just in case" the Cubs actually made it to the World Series! With a very heavy heart...he cancelled them yesterday.

He says spring training is coming...just wait until next could be...THE year!!